Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Review: The Last Greatest Magician in the World by Jim Steinmeyer

Title: The Last Greatest Magician in the World: Howard Thurston vs. Houdini and the Battle of American Wizards

Author: Jim Steinmeyer


Who Should Read It? This is a great non-fiction for people who are used to reading fiction but thinking of delving into the world of non. There's mystery and magic and excitement, and well - Neil Patrick Harris and Neil Gaiman loved it. What more do I need say?

What I Have to Say:Jim Steinmeyer knows magic, and he knows magicians, and he knows how to write about them. Put those three things together, and what you get in The Last Greatest Magician is one of the most intriguing and exciting biographies I've ever read.

To be honest, before reading this book, it had been AGES since I last read a biography. It's not that I'm not interested - reading about the lives of interesting or well-known (or sometimes not well-known) people has always fascinated me, but I've often found biographies to be somewhat dry. I've therefore always preferred fiction books laced with fact. In the Last Greatest Magician in the World, though, Steinmeryer has, for the most part, managed to avoid the dry stigma attached to biographies. There are definitely some parts that are dry (let's face it, when you're telling the life story of someone, that's just going to happen), but the majority of the time I actually forgot that I was reading a biography. It was exciting and intense and filled with good guys and bad guys and crazy plots of madness and revenge.

Steinmeyer takes subject matter that is, even at its core, exciting, and turns it into an utterly readable, magnificent story. I wanted to like Thurston, and it seems obvious to me that the author has a great respect for Thurston, but he approached the material in such an objective way that, even through the author's obvious bias, there were times when I hated him, when I desperately wanted Houdini to one-up him. Even now, after having finished, I can't decide if I liked him or hated him. One thing is clear, though, in the Last Greatest Magician in the World, Steinmeyer pulls you so completely into the world of Thurston that there is no grey - either you love him or you hate him.

Steinmeyer writes with knowledge, grace, and intelligence. As someone who has been interested in magic from a very young age (haven't we all?), I was thrilled to read the story of Thurston and his interactions with his wives and children and, especially, other well-known magicians such as Houdini and Thurston. If you have ever had an interest in magic, this book is definitely for you. Steinmeyer has turned Thurston's story into the story of all magician's, and it will satisfy your curiosity on all counts. Even if you're not a huge fan of biographies, I would recommend giving this book a try. (and plus, Neil Patrick Harris says it's awesome!)

Summary:Here is the seminal biography of the magician's magician, Howard Thurston, a man who surpassed Houdini in the eyes of showmen and fans and set the standard fro how stage magic is performed today.

Everyone knows Houdini-but who was Thurston? In this rich, vivid biography of the "greatest magician in the world," celebrated historian of stage magic Jim Steinmeyer captures the career and controversies of the wonder-worker extraordinaire, Howard Thurston.

The public's fickleness over magicians has left Thurston all but forgotten today. Yet Steinmeyer shows how his story is one of the most remarkable in show business. During his life, from 1869 to 1936, Thurston successfully navigated the most dramatic changes in entertainment-from street performances to sideshows to wagon tours through America's still-wild West to stage magic amid the glitter of grand theaters.

Thurston became one of America's most renowned vaudeville stars, boldly performing an act with just a handful of playing cards, and then had the foresight to leave vaudeville, expanding his show into an extravaganza with more than forty tons of apparatusand costumes. His touring production was an American institution for nearly thirty years, and Thurston earned a brand name equal to Ziegfeld or Ringling Brothers.

Steinmeyer explores the stage and psychological rivalry between Thurston and Houdini during the first decades of the twentieth century- a contest that Thurston won. He won with a bigger show, a more successful reputation, and the title of America's greatest magician. In The Last Greatest Magician in the World, Thurston's magic show is revealed as the one that animates our collective memories.

Cover Story: Super cool - so mystical and magical and intriguing!

Disclosure: This book was sent to me for review via Shelf Awareness. This in no way affected my review.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Things I Love As Much as Books (17)

So, I think it's a given that I love to read. Don't we all?
The thing is, though, there are a TON of other things in my life that I love just as much as reading. Sure, most of these things aren't as constant as reading, but they count just as much in my life when I'm loving them.
SO, I decided to start this weekly feature in which I write a short post about something in my life that I am loving just as much as reading!

So, while there are TONS of things that I love as much as books, there are also some things that I hate as much as I love books. And one of those things is cigarettes. I really, literally, can't stand them.
But this hatred, oddly enough, has led to something else that I love as much as books - my smoke detector bling.
I dressed up as a thug for Halloween this year, and, as you'll notice from the picture, I've got the awesomest bling ever around my neck.
It was my Christmas present from my little brother last year - a smoke detector that he bedazzled all up for me with an anti-smoking sign right smack dab in the middle.
One of the even more awesome things about it - if I put batteries in it, it will theoretically also go off if someone smokes around me. I haven't wanted to get close enough to someone smoking to check, though, so it remains theoretical.

Anyhow, awesomest bling ever! L<3VE! Just as much as books, for sure!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Review: Logic of Demons by H.A. Goodman

Title: Logic of Demons: the Quest for Nadine's Soul

Author: H. A. Goodman


Who Should Read It? If you've ever questioned heaven or hell or good or evil, or really even if you're just looking for a fast-paced, exciting read with some unique twists, this book is for you!

What I Have to Say:
This book was amazingly, surprisingly, and shockingly awesome! I've got to be honest - I wasn't excepting to like it. I find that lately, every time I receive a book for review from an author that's been published by an unknown publishing company, I'm disappointed. It had almost gotten to the point in which I felt like it must be an editor that makes a book good and not an author. Alas, not the case with Logic of Demons.

I was immediately gripped, pulled into the world of Devin Schwartz, horrified that I was unable to do anything to help him as I helplessly watched him make one horrible decision that would change his life forever. He buys the Forumla and finds he can't stop himself from killing the man that raped and murdered his pregnant wife. And then he finds himself working for the Company, assured that he is 100% NOT in Hell (I have to say, I wasn't so sure).

Logic of Demons takes a look at how thinly drawn the lines are between good and evil. As Devin makes his way through the afterlife, trying to understand the world of demons and angels and paladins and salesmen, he continues to make some pretty bad choices, a lot of them based on sheer naivety. It's hard to sit back and watch him when, as a reader, you pick up on things so much more quickly than he does. But, through his fumbling, the reader comes to understand what Goodman is trying to accomplish. In evil, there is always a little good to be found, and in good, there is always evil to be found - it just depends on how you look at things.

Overall, this book is utterly readable and enjoyable, and it's got a message worth reading. I don't really like how Goodman seems to overlook completely the whole idea that things that may seem bad on the surface aren't necessarily so because of intentions, but I didn't really feel the book lacking for not approaching it. I suppose it delves enough into the moral to not need it. There were a couple other parts of the book that also frustrated me (since when does a person not have the opportunity to be defended at his trial, for example?), but seriously, with a good editor, this book could have easily made it's way up to 5 stars on my book list.

If you've ever questioned heaven or hell or good or evil, or really even if you're just looking for a fast-paced, exciting read with some unique twists, this book is for you! I loved it! You'll find yourself hooked and wondering just how Nadine and her soul play into this whole thing right up until the very last chapter. Definitely worth checking out! :-)

Summary:What would you do if the love of your life was murdered by a deranged killer? Would you become a vigilante and seek retribution? And would this revenge affect those you care for in the afterlife? LOGIC OF DEMONS The Quest for Nadine's Soul takes you on a journey inside the psyches of men and women forced to deal with the spiritual consequences of their decisions. Through the lives of a demon, two Angels, and a mysterious teenage girl, a plethora of politically and socially relevant issues ranging from the roots of genocide and sex trafficking to child conscription and religious fundamentalism are addressed in this fantasy thriller. Life as well as the afterlife converge in this novel to explain certain peculiarities of the human condition. Whether you are God fearing individual or an atheist, LOGIC OF DEMONS The Quest for Nadine's Soul addresses moral and theological issues of interest for people of all backgrounds.

Cover Story: I like this cover. It's what made me agree to review the book in the first place, to be honest. Something about the guy's square jaw line with the flames behind it was just incredibly intriguing to me.

Disclosure: This book was sent to me for review by the author.

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